The Moon and the Bonfire is Pavese’s last and greatest work. On one level it recapitulates the themes of loneliness and quest that characterize his earlier prose and poetry. In this novel, the narrator has become like the world traveler in “South Seas.” In this case, however, he has returned not from the sea but from America. As the novel opens, the narrator is walking amid the hills of his native Piedmont with his friend, Nuto. The war is over, and the narrator has returned to his roots to find himself through a recollection of his youth. He befriends Cinto, a lame boy, the son of a neighbor, a violent man who burned down his house before killing himself. The boy—reminiscent of Dino in The House on the Hill—is drawn to the narrator as a symbol of romance and the exciting life of adventure in the new world. For the narrator, however, life in America was not romantic but lonely and bitter. He recalls spending a night in the cab of a truck on the edge of a vast desert. His only romance was with a woman as lonely and frustrated as he. She left him one morning, and he never saw her again.
The vague, almost dreamlike description of life in America cannot be interpreted solely as a failure on Pavese’s part, since he had never seen America, but as a correlative to the narrator’s own state of mind. America is not a place but a symbol of the bitter loneliness mirroring the narrator’s life.
The Moon and the...
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